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Concerning the rural/urban power divide in California
Six states graphic
SPLITTING UP CALIFORNIA: How Tim Draper would have it done, saying the state is currently too big and unmanageable. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Recently I've been reading David Axelrod's memoir "Believer," in which it became abundantly clear to me how corrupt and laughable Chicago politics can be. Whether it's the ongoing battle for the mayor's office by the Daly family or the rotating list of "outsiders" that get elected to the Legislature on the same platform as the previous lawmaker.

Chicago has become a political mecca for Democratic operatives thanks to Axelrod's "secret sauce" behind President Obama's two presidential victories, but the city isn't even the state capital of Illinois. In fact, Chicago is just one section of the state, bordered by a lake to the east and fertile Midwest soil to the south and west.

Once known for its manufacturing and meatpacking, it is now known for politics, lawyers, union leaders, and gang lords (not that you can necessarily separate those four like chops from a side of pork).

There is a power divide that rural voters in Southern Illinois truly dislike. While the gubernatorial candidates make their obligatory tours through the farm towns and corn-fueled hamlets, the real power will always reside in Cook and Dupage counties. This is because they collectively represent 47.5 percent of the state's population.

California isn't all that far off from Illinois, demographically speaking. While it's true that there are two demographic centers in this state, the two of them collectively represent a staggering 67.2 percent of the population on a mere 25 percent of the state's landmass.

How much representation can the other 32.8 percent really get when any statewide election is won and lost almost exclusively in L.A. and San Francisco? The real divide in California isn't between political parties; it's between demographics.

Now, the man-made water shortage is only serving to exacerbate the situation. San Francisco has almost no need for water from the inland because it is situated perfectly on the coast where it rains regularly. Meanwhile, L.A. is given free reign from Governor Brown to slurp up as much as it needs despite being in a desert. So-Cal receives what is essentially free water from the inland north.

Additionally, environmentally "concerned" city-dwellers often seem to believe that kale and gluten-free quinoa magically appears in grocery stores, while those in rural areas actually have a keen interest in maintaining the land and not building over every last piece of productive soil.
Far northern California, or "Jefferson," has always understood the shortchange they get for their tax dollars. Highways, bridges, and water storage facilities crumble as they are put at the bottom of every priority list. Statues and state parks near San Francisco on the other hand, are fussed over and cost billions to move non-native species without disturbing a single root hair. Even basketball arenas get first priority in the California Legislature while the Sikes dam project that could provide water for thousands upon thousands goes untouched.

Unfortunately, we have learned that replacing the politicians in charge is not a long-term solution, because all of this has occurred despite our absurdly short term limits.

This state is simply unmanageable. It's too big both demographically speaking and area-wise to be properly watched over, especially by the senile. Those politicians who get elected in rural areas are almost always transplants handpicked by the one political party of California. They do nothing to represent the needs of their area because they are as interested in their district as a cat is with the new toy you bought for it.

Why doesn't any politician bring up the glaringly obvious truth of this state's power imbalance? Because it would mean breaking up their one-party system to a less powerful group of one-party systems. No one making the rules would risk putting someone else in charge.

The governor has made it clear that whatever areas of California disagree with him will be subject to extra restrictions or denial of funding. The San Joaquin Valley, which is a mostly Republican area of the state and stood to benefit from separation, was the first focus of heavy-handed drought restrictions that are causing mass unemployment and migration towards the coast. The trickle of Republican voters leaving the Valley will be solidly drowned out by the millions of Democratic voters that already live there.

Jefferson, which has always prided itself in being fiercely independent, has seen less and less infrastructure funding for maintaining the winding and increasingly crumbling backroad highways that serve as a lifeline to remote river hamlets and logging towns. In an interesting escalation of sorts, several northern counties voted successfully either through their board of supervisors or through a general vote to leave California in favor of a new statehood.

Now I'm not saying that I back the Six Californias plan that Tim Draper put out last year, but I am saying that separation is a conversation that needs to happen in our coffee houses, PTAs, community centers, church groups, and dining rooms because Lord knows that it will never occur in the capitol building as long as we keep reelecting our one party system. A system that thrives off of corruption, fantasy, and downright fraud.

Do we really want to be defined by the shenanigans of a senile old man called "Moonbeam" and the crimes of an omni-legislating crew of gun runners (Former Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco), bribe takers (Former Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello), trial lawyers (Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles), and alcoholics (Former Sen. Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield)? Will we continue to be a small cog in the most inefficient and corrupt of machines? Or will we stand up and call for real, meaningful leadership and unlock the potential and promise that all of California once had?

Devon Minnema is a 19-year-old college student, columnist, and fourth generation family farmer.